Bakers Island Light
The keepers of these magnificent landmarks refuse to leave
WHAT IS IT about lighthouses that seems to make them ideal settings for hauntings? Perhaps it’s the isolation or the extreme age of many of these magnificent structures. Or perhaps it’s because the lighthouse keepers – who are often said to be the ones haunting the buildings – lived in solitude for long periods of time, often cut off from other people for weeks, even months at a time. Perhaps this solitude leaves a shadowy imprint of their lives within the stone and mortar of these wind and wave-swept beacons.
Here is a mini-directory of haunted lighthouses around North America and the stories of their ghosts. Click Enter Gallery to begin.
Location: Bakers Island, Salem Harbor, Massachusetts
When built: 1907
The haunting: No one is sure who or what might be haunting this lighthouse — or perhaps it just has a mind of its own. Its fog bell turns on and off by itself. It’s been reported that it has turned itself off when the lighthouse keeper approaches the building, then turns back on of its own accord a few hours later.
One one occasion in 1898, several of the light’s former keepers were having a reunion on the island. When the ferry came to pick up the men at the end of the day, the fog bell began to ring loudly by itself. Tragically, the ferry encountered a severe storm as it made its way to the mainland, and all but one of the keepers was killed. Was the phantom-powered fog bell a warning to them?
Source: Coastal Ghosts & Lighthouse Lore by William O. Thomson
Location: Barnegat, New Jersey
When built: 1856-1859
The haunting: There are, they say, two ghosts who haunt Barnegat Lighthouse, that of a man and his wife. “They had been on a ship just off the coast when a storm struck,” a reader tells me. “The ship was evacuated, but the husband chose to stay. I’m not sure if he was the owner of the ship or had invested money in it or felt that the scrap from a wrecked ship would be lucrative, but he stayed for monetary reasons. He felt that the ship was strong enough to stay afloat. His wife chose to stay with him, although they did send their infant daughter to safety with one of the mates. The ship did survive the storm, but the husband and wife froze to death.
“The ghosts often appear on clear, cold days in January and February. On such days, when a parent takes their baby for a walk in a stroller or carriage, the ghosts will approach them, compliment them on their beautiful baby, and then, realizing that the baby is not their daughter, disappear.”
Big Bay Point Lighthouse
Location: On Lake Superior, Michigan
When built: 1896
The haunting: This stately brick lighthouse might be haunted by the ghost of H. William Prior, who was the facility’s first keeper. According to Big Bay Point Lighthouse History by Jeff and Linda Gamble, “Prior was despondent after the death of his son and on June 28th he disappeared into the woods with his gun and some strychnine. It was feared that he had gone off to kill himself, and a subsequent long search failed to find him. Mrs. Prior and her family left Big Bay on October 22, 1901 to live in Marquette. Over a year later, the following entry was made in the station log:”
Mr. Fred Babcock came to the station 12:30 pm. While hunting in the woods one and a half mile south of the station this noon he found a skeleton of a man hanging to a tree. We went to the place with him and found that the clothing and everything tally with the former keeper of this station who has been missing for seventeen months.
It’s said that the ghost of the red-haired Mr. Prior is occasionally seen on the property and may be responsible for the unexplained slamming of doors. Today, Big Bay Point Lighthouse is a bed and breakfast.
Bird Island Light
Location: Sippican Harbor, Massachusetts
When built: 1890
The haunting: William “Billy” Moore was the light’s first keeper when it was first lit in 1890. Some say he was a convicted pirate who served out his sentence at the lighthouse, while others claim he was being punished for stealing money from the U.S. Army during the War of 1812. By all accounts, however, Billy had a vicious temper. He lived there with his wife, Sarah, a small, frail woman who many friends suspected was beaten and abused by Billy. One day in 1832, Billy raised the distress flag on the island, bringing the mainlanders to see what the trouble was. They found Sarah dead in the house. Billy claimed that she died of tuberculosis, but others suspected she had somehow been murdered by Billy.
After Billy disappeared from the island, his replacement claimed to have seen the apparition of a frail-looking woman who came to the door with an outstretched hand. When the door was opened, she would fade away. This ghost, who might be Sarah Moore, was last seen in 1982 by two local fisherman, who say the weeping spirit still looked quite distressed.
Source: Coastal Ghosts & Lighthouse Lore by William O. Thomson
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
When built: 1783
The haunting: The ghost of an old sailor has been spotted several times by keepers at this lighthouse, also known as the Boston Head Light. The vacinity gets unexplainable cold when the phantom is sighted. Footfalls of something unseen has been heard walking the stairs of the tower, and a cat has hissed at whatever invisible force was making a rocking chair move on its own.
Most notable is the ghost’s apparent dislike of rock-and-roll music. When Coast Guard personnel would tune their radio to a rock station, the tuner would suddenly jump down the bandwidth to a classical music station.
Source: Coastal Ghosts & Lighthouse Lore by William O. Thomson
Gibralter Point Lighthouse
Location: Toronto Island, Canada
When built: 1808
The haunting: This lighthouse was so-named because the governor at the time of its building thought it should be fortified as strong as the Rock of Gibraltar. The ghost here might be that of J. P. Radan Muller, the lighthouse’s first keeper, who supplemented his income as a bootlegger of American whiskey. In 1815, soldiers from Fort York came to the island in search of some of Muller’s whiskey. He obliged, but when they requested seconds, so the story goes, Muller refused and a fight ensued. Muller was never seen again, although it is assumed that he was murdered by the soldiers. The remains of a body were discovered in 1904 and reburied.
According to a 1958 short documentaryabout the lighthouse, workers and visitors have witnessed many forms of unexplained phenomena there, including lights in the windows where there should be none, the shadowy form of a man drifting across the sand in the moonlight, blood stains on the staircase, and an eerie moaning sound. Today, the lighthouse stands unused as a historical landmark.
Heceta Head Lighthouse
Location: Florence, Oregon
When built: 1894
The haunting: Said to be haunted by the ghost of the “Gray Lady,” who is perhaps the mother of an unknown baby whose grave has been found on the grounds. Also known as “Rue,” the ghost is known for moving objects, opening and closing cupboard doors and other strange occurrences. One workman claimed to have come face-to-face with Rue in the attic and fled in terror. Days later, while working on the exterior of the building, he accidentally broke one of the attic’s windows, but refused to go up there to repair it. He instead repaired it from the outside, leaving the broken glass scattered across the attic floor. That night, workers heard scraping noises in the attic. When they checked it out the next morning, all of the broken glass had been swept into a neat pile.
Even today, some report that they have seen an elderly woman looking down from an attic window. The building is a bed and breakfast today.
New London Ledge Lighthouse
Location: New London Harbor, Connecticut
When built: 1909
The haunting: This lighthouse’s ghost is named Ernie. In 1936, when Ernie learned that his wife had run off with the captain of the Block Island Ferry, he jumped to his death from the roof of the lighthouse. He has since haunted the lighthouse, and his ghost has been known to open and close doors, wash the decks, turn off televisions, turn the fog horn off and on, and untie secured boats to let them drift away.
Old Port Boca Grande Lighthouse
Location: Gasparilla Island, Gulf of Mexico, Florida
When built: 1890
The haunting: This lighthouse might have two ghosts. The first is the young daughter of one of the lighthouse’s keepers, who died in the building, perhaps of diphtheria or whooping cough. Tour guides say that she can be heard playing in one of the rooms of the building’s upper floor. The second ghost is reputed to be the headless spectre of a Spanish princess named Josefa. According to the legend, when Josefa rejected the love of the Spanish pirate Gasparilla, he lopped off her head with his sword. Her headless spirit has allegedly been seen wandering the beach… looking for her head.
Location: Gurnet Point, Plymouth, Massachusetts
When built: 1769; replaced in 1803, rebuilt in 1843 and 1924
The haunting: Built on the property of John and Hannah Thomas in 1769; they became the lighthouse keepers. John was killed during the Revolutionary War, leaving Hannah as America’s first woman lighthouse keeper. The 1924 incarnation of the lighthouse is still standing, but is automated and no longer needs residents to keep it running. Yet some believe Hannah Thomas is still there. Bob and Sandra Shanklins, professional lighthouse photographers, decided to spend the night in the house adjacent to the tower. Bob was awakened in the middle of the night by the apparition of the upper portion of a woman’s body floating above his wife’s head and staring at him. He described the ghost as wearing old-fashioned clothing that fit close around her neck, and had long dark hair that fell to her shoulders. Was it Hannah Thomas, thinking that her husband had finally returned from the war?
Point Lookout Light
Location: Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
When built: 1830; 1883
The haunting: Point Lookout has been called “America’s most haunted lighthouse,” mostly because of its unfortunate past. In the years of the Civil War, a prison camp was established next to the lighthouse by the Union Army. It was terribly overcrowded and became a breeding ground for disease, despair and death. Many signs of haunting have been reported since the 1860s: strange noises and disembodied voices, some of which have even been recorded on audiotape. The ghost of the first lighthouse keeper, Ann Davis, has been seen standing at the top of the stairway. Other figures have been seen in the basement.
Some visitors have reported being confronted by a woman in clothes that appear to date from the 1800s, and she mysteriously asks for help in finding the grave of a loved one. (Graves had been moved many decades ago.) A Union soldier has been seen guarding the steps to the light, and a Confederate soldier has startled some visitors when he appeared in the back of their car as they passed a Confederate cemetery.
Presque Isle Lighthouse
Location: On Lake Huron, Presque Isle, Michigan
When built: 1840
The haunting: Said to be haunted by the ghost of George Parris, the former lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse is now abandoned, yet an amber light is occasionally seen still flashing from the tower. George and Lorraine Parris moved into the small house attached to the lighthouse in 1977, where they looked after the grounds and provided tours to vacationers. The lighthouse was actually taken out of service in 1870, but it wasn’t until 1979 that George and the Coast Guard removed the wiring. Yet after George died in 1991, the mystery light began to appear. “I knew right away that it was George,” said his widow, who continued the caretaker duties alone. “He used to cook breakfast for me in the morning. Bacon and eggs. There were many mornings when I’d wake up to the smell of breakfast, but naturally no one was there. I knew that it was him.”
According to one story, a little girl touring the lighthouse with her family had climbed to the top of the tower and returned giggling. When asked who she had been talking to up there, she said, “To the man in the tower.” She later identified the man as George Parris from a portrait of him in the cottage.
Sequin Island Lighthouse
Location: Georgetown, Maine
When built: 1797; rebuilt in 1820 and 1857
The haunting: Reputed to be haunted by the bride of the lighthouse keeper who murdered her there. According to the legend, to help her fight the loneliness and depression of the isolated island, the lighthouse keeper had a piano shipped there for her. Unfortunately, she only had one piece of sheet music, which she learned and played over and over again. This allegedly drove the lighthouse keeper mad and he destroyed the piano – and his young wife – with an axe. Some say her piano music still can be heard floating out over the waves.
Seul Choix Point Lighthouse
Location: On Lake Michigan, about 14 miles east of Manistique, Michigan
When built: The light was placed into service in 1892, but the tower had to be rebuilt and the station was not entirely completed until September, 1895
The haunting: “Visitors and workers at the lighthouse complex have reported strange happenings, including moved silverware and other items, footsteps, the strong smell of cigars and the sound of someone climbing the lighthouse steps. Many believe that a lighthouse keeper is still at work.”
Sherwood Point Lighthouse
Location: Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
When built: 1883
The haunting: Sherwood Lighthouse was the last lighthouse on the Great Lakes to be converted to automation; it was operated by personnel up until 1983. Today, it is used as a private retreat house for Coast Guard personnel, but is open for tours to the public during the third week of May. And it just might be haunted. “We stopped at Sherwood Point and spoke with a U.S. Coast Guard Reservist, since the Coast Guard administers the site,” reader Joe Severa reports. “He said he has heard noises at night when he stays there. He also showed us a log of people who have stayed there, and their comments about unusual phenomena. Supposedly, a woman haunts the lighthouse.”
Could it be the ghost of Minnie Cochems? She and her husband William operated the lighthouse during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. On the morning of August 17, 1928, as Minnie was climbing out of bed, she collapsed and died. A plaque to her memory remains on the lighthouse to this day.
St. Augustine Lighthouse
Location: St. Augustine, Florida
When built: 1824; 1874
The haunting: Several ghosts are said to haunt this lighthouse. The voice of the 12-year-old daughter of the lighthouse’s builder, who drowned near the building, can sometimes be heard. Footsteps from some unseen presence can be heard shuffling on the gravel and on the steps outside the lighthouse. A large, dark male figure has been seen in the basement, possibly the spirit of a former caretaker who hung himself in the lighthouse.
St. Simons Lighthouse
Location: St. Simons Island, Georgia
When built: 1810; 1872
The haunting: The keeper’s house was the dwelling place of the lighthouse keeper, his assistant and their families. In 1880, an argument broke out between lighthouse keeper Frederick Osborne and his assistant, leaving Osborne dead. Since then, many witnesses have claimed that his heavy footsteps can still be heard climbing the tower’s staircase.
White River Light Station
Location: On Lake Michigan, Whitehall, Michigan
When built: 1876
The haunting: They say the ghost of White River’s first lighthouse keeper, Captain William Robinson, still haunts the structure. He lived there for 47 years with his wife Sara, where they raised their 11 children. When he reached retirement age, his son was appointed keeper, but the Captain refused to leave, keeping up with his daily duties well into his 80s. At 87 he was finally being forced to vacate the lighthouse, and on the evening before he was to leave, he died in his sleep. Those who know the lighthouse well say that the ghosts of the Captain and his wife both haunt the place. In his later years, Captain Robinson walked with a cane, and the distinctive sound of his footsteps and thumping cane still can be heard making his rounds late at night. His wife Sara occasionally leaves signs that she is helping to keep the place tidy.
Point of Ayr Lighthouse
Location: Talacre, Wales, U.K.
When built: 1770s
The haunting: Located on the northeastern coast of Wales, the Point of Ayr Lighhouse has been known for its ghost for a very long time. The most frequently sighting ghost is a figure in work clothes who stands on the lighthouse balcony, who appears to be repairing equipment.
Large, ghostly footprints have also been found on the nearby beach, pointing in the direction of the lighthouse. Just as some paranormal investigators found this print, they heard a very loud bang coming from inside the lighthouse. As they approached the structure, a phantom figure shined a flashlight at them. Both the figure and the footprint disappeared.
A psychic has sensed that the name of the lighthouse ghost is Raymond, a former keeper who died of “a fever and a broken heart.”